Sometimes, playtesting a racquet can feel like the tennis equivalent of a blind date: Favorable first impressions can often alleviate an awkward feeling of unfamiliarity. Last night, we took the new Dunlop Biomimetic 700 out for a first date playtest, and while the oversized stick's specs didn't spark a love-at-first-sight bond, the pure power and comfort level the black, grey and white racquet supplied was satisfying.
Recently, I've been playing with the Dunlop Biomimetic 400 Tour, which we reviewed last week, the Volkl Organix 10 and the Donnay X-Dual Gold 99, which offers an ultra sleek beam (15 mm/18mm/17 mm) and looks almost popsicle-stick thin compared to some shovel-size oversized sticks. Play-testing the Biomimetic 700 (MSRP: $210) with its bulkier beam (26 mm/28 mm/26 mm) and 110-square inch head felt a little like piloting an SUV immediately after stepping out of a sports car: You're instantly aware of the width and mass in your hands.
Prior to playing a couple sets of doubles, I hit one against two for about 20 minutes. Transitioning from a thinner-beam, heavier racquet (the Biomimetic 400 Tour weighs 11.46 oz. strung, which is nearly two ounces more than the 9.6 oz. Biomimetic 700), I felt I had to shorten my strokes a bit to find the range and keep the ball in the court. The TruOval shape of the head does help generate topspin, and when forced well wide, the 700's power potential did help me indulge the urge to occasionally try rip the running forehand cross court, or attempt to strong-arm the net man with a body shot.
I felt most challenged in two areas, one being when trying to defend deep drives hit directly at me. I shanked a few of those shots trying to half-volley replies from the baseline—because this is a lighter, wider stick than I typically use, I sometimes felt I was too far out in front of the ball. There was also my serve. It strayed beyond the service box initially, though that may have been due more to adjusting to outdoor lighting and the somewhat schizophrenic nature of my serve than harnessing the power and the extra lengh (27.25") of the frame.
A pleasant surprise was that the power the 700 provides was palpable, but not the ostentatious "Hummer hogging up the bicycle lane", unbridled volatility that forces you to tap at the ball for fear of sending it splattering off the back fence. You can certainly crack the ball—it was especially effective hammering hip-high shots inside the baseline—but it's a more comfortable, controllable power than anticipated.
Comfortable power is the most marked asset and perhaps best selling point of the 700. The racquet represents a bit of a departure for Dunlop, which is known more for the precision of its player frames than pure power. The company has added a new "3DOM" technology to the Anti-Friction grommet system it applied to the 400 Series. The green bands surrounding each grommet pod are designed to act as cartilage and absorb shock while also allowing strings to move more freely on impact (in an unstrung model, you can pop the grommet pods out and feel the softer surrounding material). That design should help the stick appeal to players who have battled elbow and shoulder injuries, or senior players who will appreciate the power potential, larger face space, slightly extra reach and softer ride the racquet provides.
We plan to put the racquet in play-testers hands this week (if you live in the New York area and want to hit drop me an email) and post a formal review soon.